Hello and welcome to what happens when National Geographic and the Turks get mixed up in my head. Most if not all of the stories will be based on facts about a certain predator with a bad reputation. I'm curious as to whether anyone will be able to guess the animal. The stories will follow the FFVII and FFVII AC timeline fairly faithfully most of the time but I won't promise that that will always be the case. Updates will happen sooner the more reviews I get, I need the guilt to motivate me.
As per usual, all characters are the property of Square Enix.
1. Play teaches Fighting Skills
-Others train their rookies with dead rounds. Not the Turks. They use live ammo. Otherwise, what's the point?
Theme song – When Worlds Collide by Powerman 5000
Elena's first thought after she heard the distinctive report of a gun being fired wasn't a thought really, but a reflex. Before her higher brain functions could kick in the hairs on the back of her neck were at full mast and she was dropping into a crouch. Not even a moment later she had found temporary cover behind a nearby car and took a precious second to breathe. He hadn't used a silencer, but in Wall Market on a Saturday night it was hardly necessary. It had been sheer luck that one of those rare split second silences had fallen right as he took the shot.
Elena assessed this information while straining for any sign of movement on the sniper's part. He was most likely on top of the hotel across the street. It was a squat ugly little building, but perfect for the purpose. Flat roofed, nondescript and filled with people who didn't care what the noises on the roof were, not to mention a commanding view of the street for at least a block in either direction. Not that the shooter would care if someone did report a disturbance, but still, why borrow trouble? Elena took a deep breath and scuttled into a nearby alley, pursued the entire way by carefully timed shots.
That must be Tseng.
Elena straightened as she ran through the alley, leaping over refuse and the occasional bum. There was a time when she would have wondered and worried about what was getting on her shoes, what that unique smell was and where she had lost her tie. At another time she might have listened to her bruised body's pleas for rest. But for now her concerns were as follows:
Staying in one piece.
Avoiding the Turks for another… where the hell had her watch gone? Another half hour or so. However long it took to get to the safe house.
She came to an intersection and stopped abruptly. After peering at the dingy street signs and trying to cross reference those with what she knew about the area, Elena released a small sigh. Wall Market was a rat's nest best navigated by luck and landmarks to anyone not born and raised there. A person could wander around for hours, if not days, and never get where they wanted to go. Unfortunately Elena was running out of time. She cursed the murky light that made one rundown building look just like every other. Finally deciding to go west, she began a light jog in that direction. She wanted this over with. She wanted to go home, use the highest level Cure materia she could get her hands on and then take the longest shower in her life. Directly after that, she was going to sit down with a cup of hot cocoa and a piece of cheesecake. Screw what Mama said about a lady's habits, she thought grimly, tonight I eat in my bathrobe on the couch and with the TV blaring.
She almost ran into several passersby, too tired and too distracted to do much more than swerve and make a noise that could have been construed as apologetic. There weren't many people out this late so it was easy to slip into autopilot. Her focus sharpened immediately when she found herself faced with a broad chest that she seemed unable to maneuver around. Elena was out of it, but not so far gone that she didn't recognize when someone was moving to intercept her. She glanced around and understood the situation right away. The man she had almost run into and was currently backing away from had bad breath, yellow teeth and worst of all, two equally nasty friends. None of the idiots were being particularly subtle in their perusal of her and Elena was confused for a moment. Didn't they have any idea…?
No, no they didn't. She'd been a Turk for all of a week or so and it was unlikely that the news had filtered down here. Even if it had, the plate dropping was no doubt the more interesting news in most people's minds. The blue suit should have been a clue, but it was dark as sin down here and she hardly looked her best.
Tseng had ordered her to accompany Rude on a simple assassination in Wall Market. The target was old and sick, no real threat. It was just this side of a mercy killing, really. Elena never turned down a chance to shadow Rude and get into the field. She'd been so eager that she didn't question it when Rude had asked her for her gun after they left the car. Elena had handed it over without a word and turned to look at the building where the target was located. Suddenly the hairs on the back of her neck stood up and she'd ducked instinctively.
She spun around to see Rude lining up for another punch. For a moment she stood frozen. It was enough for him to catch her in the stomach. She'd let the momentum carry her backwards in order to minimize the damage and then moved into a defensive stance and considered her options. Only two presented themselves. Fight or flight. After a couple of minutes she was down to one. Elena landed one hit right to his jaw and then turned and escaped through an alley, the first of many that night as it turned out.
It had taken him a few minutes, but Rude had somehow cornered her again, this time next to a bar. He told her that if she wanted to live she needed to get to an address she didn't recognize and go to apartment 27B. Elena wanted to stop and stare or ask him what the hell was going on but she didn't have time as Rude was still doing his level best to pound her into the wall. She bobbed and weaved as never before just prior to landing yet another haymaker on him, and took off running yet again.
Not ten minutes after that she'd dodged bullets fired from behind and to the left by ducking through yet another alley. Wall Market was a violent place, but Elena was not so hopeful as to assume anything but that those shots had been aimed at her. She decided it had to have been Tseng, and so it had gone for the last few hours. Rude, then Tseng, then Rude again, sometimes with barely a minute's pause in between. Sometimes she fought the Wutain hand to hand and Rude was the one shooting from rooftops or street corners. Generally though, each man had gone with their strengths. Rude all but turned her into a fine paste in close quarters, and Tseng took aim at her from a variety of roofs and corners.
Elena's world had shrunk to a series of fights and escapes in dank alleys, dodging passersby on narrow streets, and the sound of her own blood rushing in her ears. She was wet, tired and thirsty. She could literally feel bruises starting to form where Rude had landed hits, not to mention the flesh wounds in her shoulder and leg where Tseng almost didn't miss. In light of all this masculine attention, Elena felt she could be forgiven a lack of interest in the romantic prospects these drunkards had to offer.
She backed up slowly, shifting slightly so that her back was more or less against the flickering street light. Her admirers followed, moving into a loose ring and cutting off her chances for escape. Elena elected to start with the first man she had seen. He appeared to be the leader; if she could take him, it would hopefully throw the other two off.
"That's right, sweetie…" Her new suitor had evidently taken her silence for consent and chose that moment to lurch forward, arms wide. Too much thinking! Elena berated herself and swung into action. She lifted her arms and for a moment the man before her looked pathetically grateful. She caught a glimpse of his face as gratitude turned to confusion when, when a slight adjustment and twist to the side she sent him headfirst into the pole behind her.
She had no time to enjoy the rather satisfying clang as he made contact, because the man to her left was already aiming a fist at her head. She crouched and spun, aiming a foot at his knee. He was moving to fast for her to do much more then trip him, but that would have to do for the moment. She straightened up, facing the last man standing. He was about six feet away, having been the furthest from her in the first place. His face was twisted with anger and he held a switchblade in one hand. Elena watched him warily then glanced around briefly in order to take stock of the situation.
Lover boy number one was groaning, but showed no signs of imminent revival. Lover boy number two was rising slowly to his feet. Number three was calling her everything but a lady and advancing. Time for a bit of strategy.
She leapt forward and landed on the calf of number two's leg, driving her heel into the back of his knee as he braced himself to rise. There was a satisfying crunch as bone and tendon gave way and a pained shriek as number two went back down. Elena avoided a wild stab from number three and hauled ass down the street, her ears cocked for the sound of pursuing footsteps. None were evident, only pained cries. After a moment she dared a look back. Thank the Planet for back street loyalty. Number three was on his knees glaring after her as he held down a writhing number two. Number one had just sat up, holding his head.
Elena took the next available right. Number two was screwed unless one of his friends had a fairly high level materia on hand. Even if they did, she'd be at the safe house by the time they could collect the two wits they shared between them. She paused again at the next set of street signs, then took off again, trying to pace herself. Not long now.
Fifteen minutes later Elena was panting her way up a flight of stairs to the mysterious Apartment 27B that Rude had mentioned earlier, just before delivering a roundhouse that had damn near taken her head off. She made it to the second floor landing and paused for a moment to catch her breath …and the pain hit. She'd been struck just a minute or two after her would-be Romeos interfered.
She had an actual bullet hole in her, a couple inches over from her left shoulder. Four inches down and it would have been her heart. So much for the faint hope that her teammates weren't shooting to kill. Was it sick that she still found Tseng kinda cute, even though she was pretty sure he was the one that pulled the trigger?
Elena took a breath and moved forward, doing her best not to shamble. Having never been shot before, she could now say with certainty that it wasn't as bad as she'd feared. It wasn't the potential of the pain that had frightened her, but rather the idea that it would stop her in her tracks, that she would freeze up and become an easy target. Apparently the need to deny the shooter a second chance had outweighed the pain, and after a minute or two she could barely feel it. Good ol' shock, Elena thought and turned the doorknob of 27B.
The door squealed and Elena cast an annoyed glance at the hinges as she stepped in. She stopped immediately when she heard applause coming from the center of the room. Her eyes widened when she saw Reno sitting on a wooden chair in the middle of the room. A cigarette dangled from his lips and his EMR was balanced in the crook of one arm as he clapped. Elena's eyes automatically took in the little details of his appearance. The pale cast to his skin, the almost feverish look in his eerily green eyes and how close his smirk was to a grimace. Even his hair seemed somehow subdued. It was as weak as she'd ever seen him but Elena was in no way ready to write him off as harmless.
"Well hello there," Reno drawled, his voice rich with amusement. "Don't you look like hell, huh? Come in, shut the door. Rough night?"
Elena blinked. "You shouldn't be smoking," she said and then closed the door. She was tired and stressed so of course, the silliest, most trivial thing possible came out of her mouth. She found she couldn't be bothered to be embarrassed about it. She swayed for a moment as a wave of dizziness struck her, but she shook it off as best she could and turned back to find Reno watching her intently.
For a moment, Elena saw herself through his eyes. Covered in grime and her own blood, smelling of sweat and the back streets she'd been scurrying through for the past few hours. She looked at her hands and was faintly surprised at how truly filthy they were. Rude had gotten in a couple of glancing shots to her head, and the bruises were already blooming. She didn't even want to think about her hair.
"So, are we going to fight?" she asked, not bothering to mask her weariness. If this is some elaborate way to get rid of me, she thought, I hope it's quick; bleeding out seems a little anticlimactic after the rest of it.
"Do you want to?" Reno stood and cocked his head. He seemed to be genuinely curious about her answer. He took a step forward and Elena tensed, her hands clenching unconsciously into fists. Reno noticed and laughed softly. "You're just so cute…" he murmured and stepped closer. Elena backed up, keeping him directly in front of her. Reno smiled and made lazy motions in the air with his EMR. He seemed to be writing something. Elena eyes followed the fluid movements, losing her self in the loops and swirls. She shook her head to regain focus and found that Reno was only a couple of feet away. She pressed her back firmly against the door, hissing from the pressure on her wounds. Alright, fists up, focus on his weak spots... I might go down but I'll rip that fright wig off him first…
The menacing crackle of electricity broke the brief stillness. Elena looked from Reno's lazy grin to the electrified rod in his hand and back. His smile was indulgent but his eyes dared her to try something… anything. For a moment, she debated just having a go anyway, but then his eyes hardened. Elena sighed and dropped her hands.
"Where are Rude and Tseng?" she said as the redhead continued to advance. "I would have thought they'd want to be here after all the work they put in." Reno said nothing, just stopped less then a foot from her, the EMR held so close to her neck that she could feel her skin start to tingle unpleasantly and her hair defy gravity. "Then again," she said, her voice admirably calm, her eyes on his neck, "This could be all for you…" She lifted her brown eyes to his green.
"Oh Laney," he sighed, his voice little more then a low purr. "You never really shut up do you?" His lips parted and revealing surprisingly sharp-looking white teeth. "You think this is all some sort of 'welcome back' party for me? Silly, stupid rookie." His tone made the words sound something like an endearment. "If this was all about taking you out, why would we bother chasing you through Wall Market? It's not like Rude couldna just shot you in the back." The EMR suddenly switched off. Elena released a relieved breath only to inhale quickly as Reno came even closer. She was immediately inundated with the scent of cigarettes, sweat and hospital disinfectant.
"We weren't sayin' goodbye, rookie," he purred. "We were sayin' hello."
Then he was gone, backing up to the center of the room and halting between Tseng and Rude. Elena watched them watch her. What had Reno meant, that they were saying hello? That this was… some sort of initiation? Her eyes widened as she looked from Rude to Reno and finally at Tseng, and focused her attention on him. He was completely impassive as usual; even Rude had seemed more welcoming.
"Sir?" Elena hated herself for allowing her voice to wobble. But she needed to know. To be sure. Tseng nodded once and Elena exhaled in relief, feeling the tension within her drain out in that one breath. Unfortunately, when the tension left, it took the adrenaline with it. Pain and exhaustion had been dancing around the edge of her consciousness for a while now and took this opportunity to come screaming to the fore. She dropped to her knees heavily, head bowed. Wasn't this the part where she was supposed to faint? She felt dizzy and nauseous and her shoulder hurt like hell, as if Reno was twisting his EMR into it… but not the slightest bit faint. Lovely.
She was only faintly aware of her teammates' approach. She brought her head up in time to see Tseng pull a potion from his pocket. He held it out, and after a moment's hesitation, Elena took it from him and drank it. A moment later she felt her flesh literally knitting itself back together. It wasn't an unpleasant sensation, just odd. The whole thing took less then a minute.
She gingerly shrugged and grimaced a little, testing herself. Her bruises were much less painful, if not outright gone, and the bullet hole in her chest seemed smaller. The only thing that hadn't changed was the fact that she was totally exhausted. Potions might heal the flesh but they didn't do a thing for overexertion. Ah well, can't have everything. Elena leaned forward, braced her hands in front of her and stood, then promptly fell back against the wall. She straightened as best she could and schooled her features into a calm expression; she was pleased that her voice came out steady. "Are we still on for the scheduled assassination, sir?"
Rude snorted and Tseng's lips quirked. Reno laughed as he reached out and ruffled her hair, nearly knocking Elena over in the process. "Feisty little thing, ain't ya?" he queried.
"Rude will handle the assignment tonight," Tseng said. "Neither you nor Reno are in any shape to continue; I'll drive you both to the medical center. No whining, Reno. I promised them I would have you back in three hours, and it has been close to five."
Elena blinked at that, Reno's vocal complaint barely penetrating her shock. She moved away from the door and followed her co-workers out of the building, feeling like she was walking in a haze. She'd evaded two senior Turks for over four hours?
She'd navigated Wall Market by herself, in the dark, while being chased by two senior Turks.
She'd gotten shot and still managed to keep going.
"Close your mouth kid, you'll catch flies." Reno's sardonic comment snapped Elena out of her reverie. She sent him a dirty look, and he stuck his tongue out at her. She shook her head. He waggled his eyebrows. She sent him a scorching glare. She was so focused on Reno that she was taken completely by surprise when Tseng stopped in front of her, and she walked right into his back.
"Sorry sir," she muttered, shooting Reno another narrow-eyed glance. Resentment gave way to something like pity as she watched him slowly open the back door of Rude's sedan and crawl in. He more or less collapsed across the seats and lay still, only the faint movement of his back giving evidence that he still lived. Tseng moved around Elena and gently pushed Reno's legs the rest of the way into the car and closed the door, then moved to the driver's side. Elena carefully lowered herself into the passenger seat and exhaled.
"Sir?" she asked as Tseng started the engine. "How is Rude going to get back?"
"He has alternate means of transportation, Elena." Tseng said smoothly. "I'm sure you have some questions about tonight."
"No sir. It was a test. I understand sir." Elena's voice was soft. She was falling asleep.
"It wasn't just that, yo," Reno's voice drifted up from his prone figure; he sounded like Elena felt. Drained. "Tol' ya she never shuts up…" Apparently, he still had enough energy for a cute comment.
"Though it pains me to admit it, Reno is correct." Tseng's voice held a hint of something like amusement, but Elena didn't know him well enough to be sure. "Tonight was not just about testing your worthiness to be a Turk, although that was part of it. It was also a warning. Elena, are you listening to me?"
Elena jerked. She'd been just this side of sleep. Her body had stopped dumping adrenaline into her blood and the resulting weariness was overpowering. She found some reserve energy, took a deep breath and nodded in response to Tseng's question. The Wutain sighed softly.
"I'll keep this brief but you need to pay very close attention. Can you do that?" Tseng waited for Elena's nod before continuing. "Turks recruit other Turks. Heidegger may hire anyone he pleases, but you're not really a Turk until you've been tested by the senior members of the team. You performed well. This is not the last time you'll be… challenged by one, or all of us, but nothing like tonight. From now on anyone who attacks you like we did will be dealt with accordingly. We take care of our own. Any situation, any place, day or night. Remember that."
Elena decided she loved listening to her boss talk. His voice wasn't the deepest she had ever heard but it had richness to it and exuded calm. His next comment was delivered in the same almost conversational tone, so it took a moment for the full impact of what he was saying to penetrate her consciousness.
"Remember the feeling of being hunted by your own, Elena. Turks recruit other Turks, Turks test other Turks." Something infinitely deadly slipped into Tseng's tone and he took his eyes off the road just long enough to make eye contact. "Turks also end other Turks should the need arise."
Elena could only hold his eyes for a moment before she looked down at the armrest between them. She did not breathe again until she sensed that Tseng had swung his gaze away from her and back to the road a few seconds later. Elena faced forward and settled back into the plush upholstery with a soft exhalation. She felt a wave of pity for anyone who saw Tseng in full predator mode. There was no doubt that he was the alpha of this little band for a reason.
"Elena?" Tseng's voice held a hint of steel. Elena swallowed and looked at him. He wasn't facing her, but she had no doubt that he was aware of her every move.
"I understand sir. Thank you… I'll try not to disappoint you." She invested the quiet words with as much conviction as she could muster. They were the truth. She was committed, now more then ever.
"You won't Elena; I'm sure of it. Now get some rest. We'll be at our destination shortly." Tseng's voice was all smoothness again. Elena turned her face toward the window and watched the street lights go by. Before she knew it she was asleep.